Bob’s Burgers creator talks show’s success
Bob’s Burgers, the inventive, warm and hilarious animated program on FOX, is set to serve up its seventh season on Sept. 25, to an audience that has grown from mere viewers to fanatical followers.
The elusive recipe of network loyalty, audience hunger and talented actors voicing strong characters coalesced for series creator, executive producer and writer Loren Bouchard, whose often outlandish characters seem oddly grounded for a cartoon world. Presenting those characters in a loving way is important to Bouchard, who said that fear of disappointing fans is what keeps the quality of Bob’s grade A.
“It’s true that fear of failure is a great motivator—really sharpens your focus,” he said. “We now fear disappointing the fans the way that we used to fear being canceled. In other words, if there comes a day when a fan says, ‘this season isn’t as good as last season,’ then we’ve all agreed to kill ourselves.”
The show revolves around the Belchers—Bob, his wife Linda and their three children, Tina, Gene and Louise—as they struggle in the burger joint business while navigating family dynamics, dead-on depictions of puberty and an array of misadventures, both bizarre and deceptively mundane.
With the ever-exasperated Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), charming Linda (John Roberts), slightly awkward Tina (Dan Mintz), whimsical Gene (Eugene Mirman) and cleverly cunning Louise (Kristen Schaal), Bouchard and fellow executive producer and writer Jim Dauterive have developed characters with a cult following. They’ve also given fans a relatable working-class family with struggles worth caring about, without being heavy handed.
“To me, a working-class family is a much more interesting family than a boring old ‘middle-class’ family. Those lines are blurry in real life of course, but on TV I think that the texture of a working life is more interesting and more fun, frankly,” said Bouchard. “I also really appreciate what I’ve come to think of as blue collar creatives—people who are struggling to make a living, but also struggling to express themselves creatively. I think Bob is a perfect example of that, but so is Linda and so are the kids. It’s a kind of life that I grew up around, but that I don’t think is represented on TV that much.”
Check out Long Island Weekly‘s exclusive interviews with the cast
Bouchard’s animated credentials include cult classics Home Movies and Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, both of which included Benjamin in lead voice roles. In those shows and in Bob’s, Bouchard has enlisted comedians and utilized a recording technique where actors record lines together.
“Always, always, always try to have your actors record together. They don’t have to be in the same room—they can be connected via ISDN between studios—but they should record at the same time. That’s the key,” he said. “It’s not eye contact so much as it’s timing. Ear contact, you might say. When they are in the same room and they yell over each other, that can create technical issues for us, but I’d rather have a great performance with technical issues than a dead performance with none.”
That formula has worked beyond Bouchard’s expectations, with fans and critics alike. Since premiering in 2011, Bob’s Burgers has become a critical darling, landing multiple Emmy nominations for Outstanding Animated Program, snagging the award in 2014. And after notching its 100th episode in the spring of 2016, the cartoon has launched into syndication and off-network reruns.
With the seventh season days away and an eighth season already approved, Bouchard credits Bob’s success, ultimately, to the show’s connection with its fans. For Bouchard, this connection is the culmination of heart and humor.
“I think a character-driven show with heart and a great cast is going to find an audience if given a chance. There are people out there who are hungry for that,” said Bouchard. “I have some experience with what you might call a passionate fan base. On shows I worked on previously, we had small but very enthusiastic followings, so I guess I’m always hoping to make stuff that engages and speaks to those folks and people like them. What was and is surprising with the passionate Bob’s fans is that there are as many of them as there are. I’m glad for every single one of them.”